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TV Review: Samantha Bee's 'Full Frontal' Debuts On TBS


Samantha Bee is currently the only woman hosting a late-night news comedy show. The former "Daily Show" correspondent debuted her new satire show called "Full Frontal" on TBS last night. NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans says Samantha Bee has barely missed a beat from her previous job.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: All those fans who worried that "The Daily Show's" go-for-the-jugular political satire left when host Jon Stewart departed last year can rest easy because Samantha Bee is bringing the pain just like Stewart used to.


SAMANTHA BEE: Wednesday night, the Democrats met for a town hall where Bernie Sanders, dressed in what appears to be the Democratic Party's big tent, played up his image of blustery old grandpa living off Social Security checks and stolen sugar packets.

DEGGANS: The first episode of Bee's new TBS show "Full Frontal" mostly featured the host standing before a giant video screen slinging passionate, sidesplitting one-liners about the most unconventional election season in years. She took on one CNN interviewer who asked a GOP candidate's wife about his unlikability.


BEE: Now look, I dislike Ted Cruz as much as the next everyone. But that's no reason to be rude to Ted's loving wife and possible hostage.

DEGGANS: And she cracked wise about how often Democratic candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton agreed disagreeably.


HILLARY CLINTON: We have no disagreement about this.

BERNIE SANDERS: I agree, I agree, I agree.

CLINTON: We have a vigorous agreement here.

BEE: Everybody is agreeing so tersely. I just had a flashback to the month before my parents finally admitted they were getting a divorce.

DEGGANS: Mostly, it was the kind of incisive, occasionally smutty and frankly liberal-friendly satire that "The Daily Show" once specialized in under Stewart. Now, unfortunately, we see it a lot less with Stewart's successor, Trevor Noah. In fact, I often wonder during Bee's impressive half-hour tour de force, why hasn't "The Daily Show" done this already? Especially when she uncorked a hilarious, in-depth look at Jeb Bush's floundering candidacy, formatted like an existential foreign film.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: His voice fades to me, the content meaningless. But I believe that he believes he can win. And for a moment, his belief makes me believe that I believe it too.

DEGGANS: Bee dispensed with the subject of her gender, kicking off the show with a mock press conference where fake reporters asked dumb questions like, what's it like to be a female woman? But she didn't shy away from tough jokes about politicians who weren't fair to women. She handed her first Elected Paperweight of the Month Award to a state senator in Kansas who proposed a dress code in the capital just for women.


BEE: Well done, Senator Mitch Holmes. Your state has the highest food tax in the country, and you had to close schools early last year due to a lack of funds. But you've got your priorities straight.

DEGGANS: This all seems like a natural progression for Bee, a Toronto native who joined "The Daily Show" in 2003. By the time she left last year as the show's longest-running correspondent, she was known for showcasing hypocrisy in stories from the field, including this interview with a conservative radio host.


BEE: It's like you can't even go on the radio anymore and condemn a whole subset of people to hell without getting some blowback.

MATT SLICK: Well, when you put it that way, it does sound rather arrogant and myopic.

BEE: Good, then I've done my job.

DEGGANS: Now, Bee has brought that instinct for sharp satire to her own well-crafted weekly show just in time for the 2016 election season. Welcome back, Samantha. We didn't know how much we needed you until you came back kicking you-know-what and taking names. I'm Eric Deggans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Eric Deggans is NPR's first full-time TV critic.